Sabarimala Pilgrimage – Maladharana

This is the first part of the series on Sabarimala Pilgrimage, process and vrata anushtanas

Maladharana begins the entire process – A Guruswami would put a Mala (Tulsi or Rudraksha beaded Chain) to the Devotee on 1st day of the Vrischika masa (this year, 2019 it is on 17th November). Generally a simple procedure carried out in a Temple. The devotee would first take blessings of his parents and elders by offering them a Dakshina (Betel Leaf with Nuts, and a Coin with the top of the leaf pointing towards the recipient) touching their feet, individually. Nothing of the Dakshina once given to a person should be use again for others.

Mala can be worn either in the Puja room at home or in the family temple or in some temples close by or even in Bhajan Mandali/Mathas that are set up during the season.  If it is worn on 1st day of Vrishchika Maasa there are no restrictions on timings or day of the week, but avoiding Rahul Kala is advisable. If it is some other day due to any reasons,  it is advisable that Mala is not worn on one’s Janma Nakshatra. Puja is performed to the Mala after Shuddheekarana and placed at the feet of the deity and then worn.

Puja to the Divine
Seeking Blessings of my Guru
Mala Puja
Mala Dhaarane
Maaladhaarane

The following is chanted 18 times while wearing Mala

Jnanamudraam Shaastramudraam
Gurumudraam Namaamyaham
Vanmudraam Shuddhamudraam
Rudramudraam Namaamyaham
Shaantamudraam Satyamudraam
Vratamudraam Namaamyaham
Shabaryaashrama Satyaena
Mudraampaatu Sadaapimaem
Gurudakshinayaa Poorvam
Tasyaanugrahaena Kaaranae
Sharanaagata Mudraakhyam
Tanmudraam Dhaarayamyaham
Shabaryaachala Mudraayai
Namastubhyam Namo Namaha

It is customary to directly go home, if Maladharana is performed anywhere outside home (like in Temple or Bhajana Mandali/Mathas). Visiting hospitals, hotels or homes where any death has happened is to avoided. No Funeral rites can be performed or participated in, while you have worn Mala. Avoid sleeping during the day time. Bhasma (Vibhooti) is applied on the forehead in the morning after wetting the same.

The Mala is never removed at any cost, until the Pilgrimage is completed. You would now be referred to as Swami and you would address all other adult males (whether Swami or not) as Swami, women as Malikappuram and children as Manikanta.

Swamis would wear black clothes (blue, saffron are other options) Avoid any kind of Cosmetics or other such adornments. You will lead a very frugal life as a Swami in terms of material needs and even food. You will not Shave or cut your nails

You would strictly practice Celibacy (Bramhacharya) & total refrain from any kind of Sexual activity (even mentally) during the entire Vrata period. You will eat only Vegetarian Food and generally have regular meal only once a day and snacks for the other

You start your day with a bath (preferably cold water to get used to it and as a help during pilgrimage) and perform a Puja before you undertake any other activity. Food has to be cooked after bath and consumed thereafter. In case any family member cooks for you, ensure they do after their bath

When you return home, you will bathe again and perform your puja in the evening. It is advisable to join other Swamis for a Bhajan session in a Mandali or in any Temple (I assure you, this is one of the best experiences of the whole process)

Shasta Puja and Deeparadhane in a Devotees Home
Shasta and the Holy 18 steps – Tastefully decorated

Lalji Nagar Ayyappa Temple, Bengaluru
Ayyappa Bhajan by our Team in Lalji Nagar Ayyappa Temple, Bengaluru
Ayyappa Bhajan by our Team in Lalji Nagar Ayyappa Temple, Bengaluru
Ayyappa Bhajan by our Team in Lalji Nagar Ayyappa Temple, Bengaluru

In order to withstand the rigours of the Pilgrimage and get our body (and mind) get used to it, Avoid wearing footwear (as the holy Sabarimala is trekked barefoot), Sleep on the mat/floor and if possible cook your own food.

Penance or Vratam should be Manasa, Vacha and Karmana – Establish purity in Thoughts, Speech and Actions. Every single act of ours as Swami, should be Purity and Sacredness personified.

It is essential that we undertake a penance for 41 days prior to Irumudi rituals (Kettunira). Without Irumudi, you will not be allowed to do the most important and significant part of Pilgrimage – Going up 18 Holy Steps. Why leave that blissful Experience

During the entire process, we avoid even visual contact of ladies menstruating in order to prevent any harm to them. (Due to Sadhana and Vrata a Swami exudes high energy which may adversely affect ladies during those days) EMPHASIS – NOT DUE TO IMPURITY

During the entire period of Vratam, Swamis shall refrain from Alcohol, tobacco or any such intoxicants. Mental Strengthening & control is the very purpose of Vratam. Everyone would be treated respectfully and be worthy of the reverence accorded to the Swamis by others

Please inform all the devotees, restriction on Women Entry has nothing to do with Impurity at all, it is only due to the Naishtika Bramhachari nature of the Deity here, in #Sabarimala No other temples of Ayyappa this such restriction

Credits: Some contents extracted from an article by Sri PCS Menon that appeared  in October 2019 Edition of Sree Ayyappan Magazine, published by Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sangam.

However, please go by what your Guruswamy prescribes.

We are on Top of the World Because…

It is that time of the yet again, when things get a bit difficult, for I am lost for words to thank the Divine for the wonderful Gift who was sent down to the earth and to be my fellow passenger with me to celebrate her birthdays with me (this is 35th Birthday spent with me – No I am not going to reveal how many before that – I don’t want anything happening to me on a day like this)

For someone very very special, Dearest Aparna, May your Birthday be blessed with everything God wants to give you! Not everyone is lucky enough to have someone as special as you in one’s life… I’m one of the lucky few! May beauty and happiness surround you today and beyond. I hope your Birthday is awesome, wonderful, full of love and laughter… just like you!

When Cakes Come as Gift, You count it as Blessings and cut it at midnight.
Then it was a competition and choice for her to make. Who First! She found this way – Apple of our eyes. One Best gift she gave me apart from herself

 

The Formality got to be done!

 

My Share, after the Kids
Return Gift
Kiddo! Who made it special for her, apart from getting the new home in Order
Kiran, a permanent fixture – an invisible hand behind organizing every such celebration
Arun, she had to jump high to reach him!

We missed having Sindhu this year at the midnight, after nearly 13 or so birthdays. She is blissfully settled into her marital home and I am sure she terribly missed the evening too.

Now for my customary tribute! As always I have nothing else to add, year after year and after each birthday and wedding anniversary, except to say that it has only got better, like the wine. It has been an amazing journey for me with her presence. As they say in Mechanical Engineering, a perfect fit. People ask me how does it work, the relationship that kept blossoming, the love that multiplied, family and no of extended family getting larger and larger, yet what clicks and where do you find the time to nurture the relationship. My honest answer was “I don’t know! It is her and all credits to her”  For no rhyme or reason, it is simply working well and Thank Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji of the Art of Living and also the Divine who chose to shower infinite blessings on me, by bringing her into my life.

No blues for anyone, if this woman in blue is around. Ask anyone who knows her

What makes her so special? What is that we all see in her that makes her a fantastic soul? It is the way she lives every moment. A wonderful human being! A great mum to biological and huge number of manasik ones, a lovely friend and wife to me, great sister to her brothers and so on. All the kids could not have asked for a better and no Non-Sense Mum!

What is exemplary is her commitment to fulfil what she has resolved to achieve. Examples galore on the persistence and diligent efforts that she invests, that is worth emulating for anyone. That is the kind of infectious quality she brings to those in her circle of influence.

If I were to emulate and advise anyone else what would be the best she has – her ultimate clarity on the priority – Absolutely unshakeable, selfless loyalty to the family and all her near ones.  I have never seen her frown whenever anyone has sought out for any help. Be it within or outside the family. In a dog eat dog world that is not a quality anyone finds so often. Thank you Aparna for being an example that all the kids and friends and myself can look up to, to try and live!

Happy birthday dear one my darling wife. Someday I hope to match up to what you are! Until then Love you loads and May God and Gurudev bless you with health, peace, happiness in abundance.

To sign off! My usual song dedicated to you – Top of the World

Moksha Ranganatha Temple – Rangasthala

Rangasthala, near Chikkaballapura on NH7 around 60 kms from Bengaluru beyond Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport in Devanahalli is abode of Sri Moksha Ranganatha Temple which is said to be more than 1000 years old.

Picture Courtesy: From a Local Devotee, Sri Srinivasa

Originally built by Hoysala architectural style, it was recently renovated by the contribution of devotees and with significant cultural contribution by ISKCON, Bengaluru. When I visited last in early 1990s, it was such a dilapidated state, and single time Pooja also was performed with lot of difficulty by the Archaka who lived in the premises. I had written about it on now defunct Yahoo 360. Many devotees, predominantly from Bengaluru took initiative and contributed to renovate and strengthen the structure, mainly erect a boundary wall, clean up the Kalyani (which was abandoned). It was then that little heard and less famous philanthropists and devotee from Bengaluru, Sri Konda Srinivasulu Reddy and Smt Konda Devesenamma,  took upon themselves to contribute and supervise construction of the exquisite Raja Gopura which was carried out under supervision of ISKCON, Bengaluru and subsequently consecrated in Presence of Madhu Pandita Dasa in August 2013

Sri Moksha Ranganatha Temple Rangasthala is situated in the Nandi Hills range and the local lore goes that if a devotee visits this temple after visiting the Adi Ranga in Srirangapatna, Madhya Ranga in Shimsha and Antya Ranga in Srirangam (TN), they will achieve Moksha (Liberation). The idol of Sri Ranganatha which is around 4.5 feet long is carved out of a single Saligrama Stone – the intricate carvings and detailing of the idol indicate the high level of skill possessed by the artisan of yore. It features Lord Vishnu resting on Adishesha in a reposing posture. The life-like vigraha with enchanting smile of Lord Vishnu is a sight to behold. With Vigrahas of Neeladevi and Bhoodevi at His service, Lord Vishnu is believed to be in Yoga Nidra and is exactly how He reposes in Vaikunta. It is also believed that Pratishta was performed at the same instant when Moorthis at Srirangapatna and Srirangam was installed.

Picture Courtesy: WWW

Another speciality of this temple is Bamboo Basket shaped Sanctum Sanctorum (Garbhagriha). The legend goes that Lord Rama after vanquishing Ravana, returned to Ayodhya to extreme delight of subjects and brother Bharata. Preparations were made for Pattabhishekha (Cornonation) of Lord Rama as the King in Ayodhya and Vibhishana also attended the coronation ceremony. As a return gift and token of appreciation for gracing the Pattabhisheka, Lord Rama handed over Lord Ranganatha’s Vigraha in a Bamboo Basket to carry it back to Lanka. Saptarishis will then plead with and convince Vibhishana to install the Idol of Lord Ranganatha with Neeladevi and Bhoodevi in Rangasthala. The sanctum sanctorum is in this shape to depict the bamboo basket for this reason

The view as soon as we enter the Raja Gopura
View of the Temple from the Rear
Another View of the Temple from the Rear left

 

Another feature of the temple architecture – As we do the circumambulation (Pradakshine) inside the Garbhagriha, we find a small window letting in sunlight. On the day of Makara Sankaranti (January 14/15 th), the sunrays falls directly at the feet of Lord Ranganatha. The precision with which the temple was built in those only proves the perfection of engineering in ancient India.

The Window through which sunlight enters the temple
Sunlight inside the Circumambulation path around the GarbhaGriha
Sunlight inside the Circumambulation path around the GarbhaGriha – Another opening in the Garbhagriha lets the light fall on the feet of the Deity

 

In the circumambulation path around the Garbhagriha, there are vigrahas of Lord Chakrath Alwar, Sri Ramanujacharya , Sri Vedanta Desikan and Nam Alwar (We were told by the Archaka that it is a rare Murthi and not found in any other place)

The Main Temple and GarbhaGriha. Note the Grilled Window Through which Sunrays enter

 

The Pushkarani (Shankha Teertha and Chakra Teertha)  itself is a sight to behold. The tanks after this picture was been clicked has since been desilted and cleaned up to receive rainwater this season (2019) and hopefully we have the requirements of the temple and the devotees met by this storage.

Sri Andal, Sri Lakshmi and Sri Ramanujacharya Temple

Inside the temple complex on the left of the main temple, there are temples dedicated to Sri Andal, Sri Lakshmi and Sri Ramanucharya (See picture above)

Feature of the entire temple complex is exquisite and intricate carvings on the pillars all around main temple as can be seen in the pictures below (A part of the collection that I have – I rather everyone visits this amazing temple and appreciate the work of art)

How to reach

From Bengaluru, drive till Chikkaballapur and take Chikkaballapur-Gauribidanur road (around 6 kms) till you reach Thippenahalli. Look for an arch with sign board leading to Rangasthala. For those interested, Muddenhalli, birth place of Sir M Vishweshwaraiah is also close by.

Om Namo Narayana